As we talk about rest, we're still not talking about sleep, but there is something else about sleep that helps us to understand the importance of rest. And that is "dreaming."
Science has long been interested in the idea of dreaming, and for a long time, the field believed that humans only dream during REM stages of sleep, when our brains are active but our bodies are not. but in more recent years, science has found that we actually dream during other stages of our sleep, too, but what and how we dream in each stage is unique.
In REM sleep, as was first discovered, our dreams are typically more vivid. The deep rest that our bodies have entered into allow our minds to do complex work while our bodies remain inactive, which gets some major heavy-duty processing done. But if we're sleeping more lightly, we might be more prone to fitful dreams. Or surface dreams - without the deeper meaning we're used to thinking of with dreams because our deeper processing centers are less involved.
No one wakes up from a light sleep dream and is tempted to ask the internet what it means. We know what it means. But those REM dreams....
And the same is true about spiritual rest and dreaming.
When we enter into deepest spiritual rest, we dream more vividly. We dream more vibrantly. We start to have these grand visions, and understandings, about what God can do in the world and what our small part in that might be. We dream with courage and complexity and a heavy investment in processing because our entire being can be engaged with the process of dreaming.
But for someone who never enters into deep spiritual rest, someone who dabbles with their spiritual eyes closed for concentration from time to time, dreaming is harder. It's always surface-level. It's always small and practical and simple. It's always the most basic thing.
For a long time, these simple, small dreams are enough to keep a person afloat. In fact, many Christians go through their entire lives with nothing more. These small dreams are the kind that confirm our faith without demanding too much of it. They are the kind that remind us of the goodness of God without necessarily requiring it. They make us feel good, make us feel like we have our eyes on the bigger things, but they're surface-level. There's not a lot of substance to them.
Because they aren't deep enough in our soul to get our complex processing systems involved.
This kind of dreaming often helps us live a "nice" life, but...is that really the goal? Is that really what you want for yourself? It's certainly not what God wants for you.
The kind of life God wants for you requires deep-processing dreaming. It requires big, crazy, audacious dreams that, if you weren't in such a solid, profound state of rest, you'd be tempted to run out right now and get yourself in trouble with. They're the kind of dreams you have and you have to spend some time figuring out what they mean, lest you just start shaking your head and thinking you might be a little bit crazy.
And that deep-processing dreaming requires a certain depth of spiritual rest.
Let me ask you something, because it's what I was asking myself when the idea for this post popped into my heart:
When was the last time you really dreamed?
If it's been awhile, when was the last time you truly rested?